It’s summertime and the readin’ is easy, so get your toes in the sand and a book in your hand. From fascinating fiction to unbelievable true-life tales to the hottest debut authors, we’ve got more than 50 titles on our summer reading list to keep you turning pages until the leaves turn colour.
15 SCORCHING SUMMER FICTION PICKS
The season’s most anticipated fiction reads, from redemption tales to immigrant sagas to genre-bending short stories.
The Unbreakables, by Lisa Barr
What do you do when you’re in your 40s and your life is suddenly shattered by your husband’s infidelity? If you’re Barr’s protagonist you pack a bag, fly to Provence and re-ignite that long-dimmed spark within yourself, indulging in passions from sculpture to sex.
Patsy, by Nicole Dennis-Benn
A Jamaican mother abandons her child to move to America, reunite with an old flame and, finally, share the life and love they never could back home. But the American dream can become a nightmare fast, while in Jamaica a daughter struggles with the fallout of her mother’s abandonment.
The Tenth Muse, by Catherine Chung
In her quest to solve a famed mathematical equation, a mathematician winds up cracking the code of her own identity as well as her ties to the Second World War and pioneering female mathematicians in one of summer’s most talked about books.
Song for the Unraveling of the World, by Brian Evenson
This genre-crossing collection of bizarre, captivating and unsettling short stories proves why Evenson has nabbed three O. Henry Prizes, among multiple other literary accolades.
Donna Has Left the Building, by Susan Jane Gilman
Donna, a 45-year-old hard-drinking rocker turned suburban saleswoman, discovers her husband is cheating and sets out on a road trip of self-discovery, winding up halfway around the world after an unexpected distress call from her daughter.
Delayed Rays of a Star, by Amanda Lee Koe
Screen star Marlene Dietrich, the first Chinese-American Hollywood star Anna May Wong and Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl: an unlikely trio photographed during a party in 1928 and whose individual lives, loves and legacies — and the trajectory each took — form the heart of this engrossing novel.
Searching for Sylvie Lee, by Jean Kwok
Bestselling Girl in Translation author Kwok turns in one of the most anticipated novels of 2019, chronicling the struggles and secrets of a Chinese immigrant family after a daughter leaves her mother to search for her missing sister and ends up unearthing the truth about their family’s painful past.
Costalegre, by Courtney Maum
The imaginative story of an American heiress who shepherds a group of artists to a secret Mexican hideaway to avoid Hitler’s cultural purge ahead of the Second World War, explored through the eyes of the heiress’s daughter and inspired, reportedly, by the real-life relationship between Peggy Guggenheim and her daughter, Pegeen.
Biloxi, by Mary Miller
Louis, a 63-year-old divorcee, is in a rut, reduced to binge-watching reality TV and eating takeout before a spontaneous dog adoption changes his attitudes about life and how to make the most of what’s left of it.
The Need, by Helen Phillips
The celebrated scribe behind The Beautiful Bureaucrat presents a psychological, genre-defying tale about a mother who encounters an intruder in her home who, frighteningly, knows everything about her family.
The Spies of Shilling Lane, by Jennifer Ryan
Mrs. Baithwaite’s social status is crumbling when the 50-year-old leaves her English village and sets out for London to meet her daughter. But as the Blitz rages her daughter goes missing, forcing Mrs. Baithwaite to confront the ravages of war in a frantic search to find and save her only child.
The Organs of Sense, by Adam Ehrlich Sachs
A story steeped in science, faith, history and philosophy begins with a blind 17th century astronomer’s prediction of a European eclipse and unfolds with the absurd and fascinating tale of how he came to predict it.
Mrs. Everything, by Jennifer Weiner
Two sisters growing up in 1950s America have their whole futures ahead of them — until they don’t. Charting the course of the sisters’ lives though the personal and cultural upheaval in the decades that follow, Weiner paints a portrait of derailed dreams and the difficult task of getting them back on track later in life.
The Nickel Boys, by Colson Whitehead
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Underground Railroad comes a based-on-real-events Civil Rights-era tale of two African American boys clinging to different racial ideologies while trapped in a Florida “reform” school where students are routinely physically and mentally abused.
The Golden Hour, by Beatriz Williams
Williams crafts a tale of murder, espionage, passion and palace intrigue that transcends generations, beginning when an American journalist travels to Nassau, Bahamas in 1941 to chronicle the couple that presides over the island — the Duke of Windsor, Edward VIII, and his Duchess, the notorious Wallis Simpson.
FIVE BREEZY BEACH READS
Perfect for a lazy, lounging afternoon. And don’t worry — it’s okay to get a little sand between the pages.
Magic for Liars, by Sarah Gailey
Fans of magic and murder mysteries will eat up the novel from the Hugo Award-winning Gailey, whose protagonist attempts to navigate the strange unknown to solve a murder at the magic academy where her talented sister teaches.
The Sentence Is Death, by Anthony Horowitz
Master of mystery Horowitz returns with his second novel featuring Private Investigator Daniel Hawthorne, whose own secret life comes under scrutiny while investigating a murder alongside his sidekick — the author Horowitz himself.
Vintage 1954, by Antoine Laurain
We’ve all felt a little woozy after drinking too much wine, but when a group of friends in Paris drink a bottle that transports them from the present day to 1950s Paris, they encounter an entirely different type of hangover.
The Electric Hotel, by Dominic Smith
A failed filmmaker’s sad existence in a Hollywood hotel is interrupted by a film student who seeks him out, digging up the past and searching for answers about his most infamous big screen bomb and the beloved muse whose career it destroyed.
Turbulence, by David Szalay
Man Booker nominee Szalay deftly explores the impact of the interconnected lives of 12 unsuspecting strangers on different flights travelling across the globe, offering the thrill of a narrative that spans continents.
RED HOT DEBUT FICTION
Read them now so you can say you were a fan of these scribes before they start nabbing awards.
The Paper Wasp, by Lauren Acampora
Award-winning scribe Acampora pens a tale of friendship, fame and the pitfalls that can accompany the pursuit Hollywood stardom in her first novel.
Fleishman Is in Trouble, by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
The witty and insightful novel from Brodesser-Akner, a New York Times Magazine writer, offers the opposite take on a broken marriage, focussing on the father left behind with the kids after his wife leaves, forced to juggle his new life while attempting to understand where and how his marriage went wrong.
Montauk, by Nicola Harrison
Set among the high-society set at a seaside hotel in the late 1930s, one woman yearns for more than the life of a rich investor’s wife, confronting her own passions, as well as tragedies, while abandoned among the crowd she longs to escape.
The Most Fun We Ever Had, by Claire Lombardo
An intergenerational novel about the ties that bind, and fray, a family, weaving the stories and secrets of a happily-married couple and their struggling adult daughters when a family member given up for adoption turns up on their doorstep.
Home Remedies, by Xuan Juliana Wang
Another of the year’s most anticipated books, Wang’s collection of short stories focuses on Chinese youth in America, bridging old traditions and new possibilities as a generation forges ahead to establish their own lives in their new home.
SUNSCREEN & SUSPENCE
Cynthia Ross Cravit rounds up reads that will keep you on the edge of your beach chair.
Big Sky: A Jackson Brodie Novel, by Kate Atkinson
In the latest of the series featuring iconoclastic detective Jackson Brodie (Case Histories, One Good Turn), the former soldier and policeman has relocated to a quiet seaside village in North Yorkshire with his teenage son and aging Labrador named Dido. While investigating yet another unfaithful husband for yet another suspicious wife, he stumbles into a sinister network that leads him back into his old life with its dark lies and secrets.
Cari Mora, by Thomas Harris
From the legendary creator of Hannibal Lecter, comes this story about a savage treasure hunter who will stop at nothing to find $25 million of Pablo Escobar’s cartel gold that is buried beneath a mansion on the Miami Beach waterfront. The caregiver of the house, Cari Mora, an immigrant who has escaped violence in her native country and is on a wobbly Temporary Protected Status visa, luckily has developed some surprising survival skills along the way.
The Paris Diversion, by Chris Pavone
Following the bestselling The Expats, CIA agent Kate Moore is back and still living the expat life, but she’s left the disasters of Luxembourg behind for a new start in Paris’ storied Left Bank along with her husband and young children. When the city is threatened with a massive terror strike (with targets including the Louvre, the Élysée Palace and the Eiffel Tower among others), she discovers the attack is not at all what it seems – and worse, it has to do with her own family. Fans of Pavone’s earlier book The Travelers, will also appreciate the return appearance of this most unusual and mysterious travel company.
Connections In Death, by J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts)
Everyone’s fave futuristic cop is back in this installment of J.D. Robb’s sexy police procedural series set in the mid-21st century New York. As the title suggests, death hits close to home for Lieutenant Eve Dallas and her beyond perfect billionaire husband Roarke when the brother of one of Roarke’s employees appears to have died of an accidental drug overdose – but in fact, his death is just the beginning of something far more sinister.
HISTORY COMES ALIVE
Fiction with some historical flare courtesy of Cynthia Ross Cravit.
A Bend In The Stars, by Rachel Barenbaum
The year is 1914. With Russia on the brink of war, two ambitious and headstrong siblings try to build their careers. One, a young Jewish physicist wants to photograph a solar eclipse, thereby proving – or disproving – Einstein’s then unpublished theory of relativity. At the same time his sister, a doctor, struggles to keep the family alive amid regular acts of anti-Semitic violence, all while fending off suspicion that her talent for healing is actually witchcraft. Rich in visual detail of First World War-era Russia, it’s both a story of survival and a race to solve one of the world’s greatest scientific mysteries.
Courting Mr. Lincoln, by Louis Bayard
Was Abraham Lincoln gay? The questioning of the 16th President’s sexuality is not exactly new and, of course, it’s long on speculation and short on proof. But in his new novel, Louis Bayard (The Pale Blue Eye, Mr. Timothy) skilfully explores the idea that the president was involved in a subtle love triangle with his wife Mary Todd and his best friend and one time roommate, Joshua Speed (the two men, while single, actually shared a bed for several years, a practice that was apparently not uncommon at the time). And while Lincoln woos Todd through their shared love of politics, the ambiguous tete-a-tetes between Lincoln and Speed may make you wonder who really was courting who.
The Only Woman In The Room, by Marie Benedict
Not just a pretty face. Did you know that Austrian-born film actress Hedy Lamarr (perhaps best known for her 1940’s Oscar-nominated films Algiers and Sampson and Delilah) also supported the Allies in the Second World War by helping to invent an anti-jamming device for torpedoes? (The frequency-hopping technology used for this back in 1941 actually became a precursor to secure Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth.) Written in memoir style and based on Lamarr’s real life, The Only Woman in the Room tells the story of a Jewish woman who flees the Nazis and her wealthy Austrian munitions manufacturer husband by sneaking away in the middle of the night on a bicycle. She eventually makes her way to London, via Paris, where she meets Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio head Louis B. Mayer. The rest, as they say, is history.
The Witches Of St. Petersburg, by Imogen Edwards-Jones
Inspired by real events surrounding the doomed royal family, the novel follows the fascinating story of two princesses in the Romanov court who practiced black magic and charmed the Tsarina into bringing Rasputin into their lives. What happens next, as we know, changes the course of Russian history.
A Brightness Long Ago, by Guy Gavriel Kay
Go back to the early days of Renaissance Italy in this story of destiny, love and ambition from the international bestselling author of Children of Earth and Sky and recipient of the Order of Canada (2014). Told in first person, a man recalls the rollicking adventures of his youth and, as ever, how fate can shape our lives in the most unexpected ways.
The Huntress, by Kate Quinn
The Germans called them Die Nachthexen, the Night Witches, and they actually existed – a Russian, all-female bomber squadron that ran thousands of missions in the Second World War. Now, the best-selling author of The Alice Network brings us the story of one of them, a fearless pilot who joins forces with a battle-scarred British journalist searching for a Nazi murderess known as the Huntress.
Incredible true stories of lives brilliantly lived.
Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II, by Robert Matzen
In what would have been Audrey Hepburn’s 90th birthday year, award-winning biographer Robert Matzen reveals, for the first time, the story of the Hollywood legend’s youth under Nazi occupation in the Netherlands, including a budding career as a ballerina, her work with the Dutch resistance, struggles with family loyal to, and murdered by, the Nazis and more. The book includes a forward by Hepburn’s son, Luca Dotti, and never-before-seen photographs of the actress from that time.
The Vagabonds: The Story of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison’s Ten-Year Road Trip, by Jeff Guinn
The true story of the friendship between American pioneers Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, whose annual summer road trips — with servants in tow — helped to revolutionize car culture, industry and road travel in the United States.
Smokin’ Joe: The Life of Joe Frazier, by Mark Kram Jr.
Celebrated sports writer Mark Kram Jr.’s engrossing biography of “Smokin’” Joe Frazier takes fight fans inside the boxing legend’s troubled youth in the racist American south, through his early career and ultimate successes, his famed fights with Muhammad Ali and a retirement fraught with personal and professional struggles — all of which makes for one of the most fascinating life stories in sports.
On Being Human: A Memoir of Waking Up, Living Real, and Listening Hard, by Jennifer Pastiloff
A testament to happiness, success and the will to conquer all obstacles, Pastiloff’s memoir explores how one woman overcame mental health struggles, body issues and a disability as well as heartbreaking personal loss to build a life of hope and joy while, in turn, helping others do the same.
Play Hungry: The Making of a Baseball Player, by Pete Rose
Baseball’s all-time hits leader chronicles his own journey to, and fall from, greatness, including his youth and determination to overcome setbacks and realize his dream of playing big league ball, the most memorable moments from his storied career and his regret over the gambling scandal that may forever cost him a place in the Hall of Fame. But more than anything, this is a book about the sport Rose loves so dearly.
Louisa on the Front Lines: Louisa May Alcott in the Civil War, by Samantha Seiple
Before she penned classics like Little Women, Louisa May Alcott served as a Civil War nurse and, for the first time, that portion of the author’s life, it’s impact on her politics and writing, and her own insights about nursing are collected in one tome.
Books that empower you to re-examine your own life and how you view the world around you.
The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World, by Melinda Gates
Societies are only as strong as their women, and philanthropist Melinda Gates sets out to explore the idea by documenting her own travels and experiences, the stories of those she’s met along the way and scientific data to inspire others. Because as she writes, “when you lift up women, you lift up humanity.”
My Seditious Heart, by Arundhati Roy
This essential and timely non-fiction collection from the Man Booker-winning author of The God of Small Things collects two decades worth of speeches, essays and other writings written in support of freedom, equality and justice.
The Beautiful No: And Other Tales of Trial, Transcendence, and Transformation, by Sheri Salata
Stuck in a rut as middle age bore down on her, Salata went from working as a top executive for Oprah Winfrey to working on herself, carving the life she truly desired out of the mistakes and regrets of the past. It was hard, revealing, soul searching work, and this is her no holds barred account of how she did it.
Flash Count Diary: Menopause and the Vindication of Natural Life, by Darcey Steinke
A ground-breaking investigative work, Steinke offers an intimate, biological and historical take on menopause, studying it in contexts ranging from nature to shifting gender dynamics to her own personal experiences and historical and cultural depictions, like how hot flashes were once viewed as a sign of witchcraft.
Three Women, by Lisa Taddeo
From a desperate suburban housewife to a couple balancing a problematic sexual arrangement to a high school student who embarks on an affair with a teacher, Lisa Taddeo spent eight years chronicling the real-life sex lives of three women, revealing their most intimate passions and emotions while revealing truths about love and sexual gender dynamics in a book already receiving high praise.
Emotional Advantage: Embracing All Your Feelings to Create a Life You Love, by Randy Taran
With a forward by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Taran, the founder and CEO of Project Happiness, pens a manual for embracing all of your emotions — even the negative ones — and learning to harness and use them to achieve the life you desire.
BELIEVE IT OR NOT
Eye-opening stories that must be read to be believed.
The Volunteer: One Man, an Underground Army, and the Secret Mission to Destroy Auschwitz, by Jack Fairweather
The heroic story, lost until now, of a Polish resistance fighter named Witold Pilecki who got himself intentionally imprisoned in Auschwitz to learn the truth about its conditions, foster a resistance force within the camp and then hatch a plan to escape to warn the Allies of the Nazis’ horrifying plan for its inmates.
The Truffle Underground: A Tale of Mystery, Mayhem, and Manipulation in the Shadowy Market of the World’s Most Expensive Fungus, by Ryan Jacobs
Investigative reporter Ryan Jacobs is already receiving praise for digging up the dirt on the cutthroat, counterfeit and criminal world within the truffle industry.
Bullets and Opium: Real-Life Stories of China After the Tiananmen Square Massacre, by Liao Yiwu
For decades, the survivors of the 1989 massacre in Tiananmen Square were forced into silence by an oppressive Chinese government. But now, after conducting secret interviews with survivors, famed Chinese poet and political dissident Liao Yiwu recounts the stories of brutality and horror that finally, after 30 years, can be told.
OPEN YOUR MIND
For deep summer contemplation about humanity, consciousness and the future of mankind.
The Last Unknowns: Deep, Elegant, Profound Unanswered Questions About the Universe, the Mind, the Future of Civilization, and the Meaning of Life, edited by John Brockman
This isn’t exactly light summer reading, but if you’ve got questions about life, love, the world around us and just why the heck we’re all here, this collection from 250 brilliant minds spanning the arts, sciences, economics and theology might just inch you a little closer to the answers you seek.
Conscious: A Brief Guide to the Fundamental Mystery of the Mind, by Annaka Harris
An accessible, quick and enlightening look at the nature of consciousness — in particular, what it is, why we have it and what it means in a world of increasing technological advancement.
The Fate of Food: What We’ll Eat in a Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World, by Amanda Little
Imagine a world with nine billion mouths to feed. It’s not that far off, and Amanda Little’s book explores the realities humans face in sustainably increasing our food supply, travelling the world to talk with experts while scrutinizing different models for feeding ourselves and protecting the environment in the decades to come.
How to Give Up Plastic: A Guide to Saving the World, One Plastic Bottle at a Time, by Will McCallum
Think of this as your how-to guide for freeing yourself from our plastic problem. McCallum, the Head of Oceans at Greenpeace, offers both an argument against plastic use and steps to help reduce our dependency on it in every area of our lives — from hygiene to food to festive activities — ensuring that we’ll have clean beaches to curl up with books on for generations to come.